Transitioning to Assisted Living

Knowing what to look for in an assisted-living facility is half the battle.

With more than 20 senior residence communities in Westchester and new centers constantly sprouting up (five have opened in the last five years), choosing the right community can be daunting. We asked industry experts to weigh in on what to consider when selecting an assisted-living facility.

Look for More Than a Pretty Façade: According to Jean Dunphy, general manager of The Ambassador of Scarsdale and chairperson of the Central Westchester Geriatric Committee, aesthetics are just a small part of the picture. “The Ambassador is the newest, most beautiful facility right now, but, next year, there will likely be a place even more beautiful. It is really 5 percent real estate, 95 percent services. Even if the building is beautiful, if the hands that provide the care are not kind and competent, it won’t matter if the lighting is provided by chandeliers or a bulb.”

Consider the Location: It’s important for aging parents to live within proximity of their adult children or other primary family members. “At the Ambassador,” says Dunphy, “one in three residents are moving back to Westchester from Florida, or some other state, to be closer to children; it needs to be easy for the adult children to stop in and see the parent on the way to or from work,” she says. 

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Talk to Current Residents: Being able to speak to current residents and their families before choosing a community is invaluable, according to Carol Smrek and J.D. Davis, co-owners of Golden Years Living Solutions, a Westchester-based service that helps families looking for senior residences. “Some communities will allow you to sit with a group of people and talk about the community; others won’t. This chance to get direct feedback is incredibly helpful and important,” Davis says. Even if you can’t speak directly with a group of residents, you can still glean a great deal from just visiting. “Observe the interactions between residents and between the staff and residents,” says Karen Harvatin, health-services administrator for Kendal on Hudson in Sleepy Hollow.   

Make Sure There are Memory-Care Units: According to Smrek and Davis, memory care is one of the biggest trends in assisted living today. “It’s better to be in a community that has a memory-care unit so that if it ever becomes an issue, you will have the care in place,” says Smrek. 

Find out About Staffing: “It’s important to know the staffing ratios, because there are no New York State staffing requirements for assisted-living facilities,” says Harvatin. “Find out if there is a licensed nurse on staff 24 hours a day, how many resident-care aides are on staff, et cetera.”

Think About the Future: “Project two to five years down the road and really understand whether the facility you are considering has an enhanced license and the care you may need to age in place,” recommends Dunphy. 

Understand Restrictions: “You wouldn’t be able to age in place for as long with a community that doesn’t have an enhanced assisted-living license,” says Smrek. “Beyond the enhanced license, each company has its own restrictions that you need to be aware of. Some companies won’t give a feeding tube; others won’t give the diabetes shot. And if a resident becomes wheelchair-bound, in some facilities [with restrictions on wheelchairs], that resident may no longer be able to stay.”

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